Dual-Cultivation in Daoism
Our approach to practice is referred to as “dual-cultivation” or 性命双修 - the practice of both xing性 and ming命. Like most esoteric terms in Daoism, xing and ming can be tricky to directly translate into English. Xing is generally translated as being ‘one’s nature’. This can be greater understood in looking at one’s nature as being layered in the original and the cultivated – how one cultivates their nature. For the sake of simplicity, we will continue to refer to xing as ‘one’s nature’. Ming is often mistranslated as simply being one’s ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’, ming can be more accurately translated as ‘one’s path of existence’ or ‘life path’ as this is determined also by one’s xing and its cultivation.
Daoism places great emphasis on the cultivation of the body as a major aspect of the cultivation of the overall individual. This bodily cultivation is a major aspect of dual-cultivation. While many other mystical practices focus solely on the cultivation of shen 神or ‘spirit’, in Daoism we first begin by establishing a foundation in the cultivation of vitality within the body. The quality of our health greatly determines our life path, or ming, and as such we have different practices to cultivate our health in order to deepen our practice – the health of the body is of great importance in the advancement of our practice. Because of the importance of a deeper understanding of the nature of the body in Daoist practice, the depth of bodily knowledge that many Daoists have is profound. It is for this reason we use the phrase ’10 Daoists, 9 are doctors’ 十道九医.
Many people say the body is simply a vehicle or a box for the spirit. In order to establish the necessary conditions for deeper cultivation, one must make sure the vehicle is strong enough to make the whole journey. If the body is just a box for carrying the spirit, having a sturdy, and protective box will benefit and protect the strength of the spirit as it moves through life better than one that is falling apart.
Deepening our practice and attaining higher levels in our internal cultivation first begins with the acknowledgment of the necessity of dual-cultivation. The cultivation of character as well as physical health is indispensable in deepening one’s personal practice and experiencing the profound mysteries of Dao – 大量玄玄也. Recognizing the body as a microcosm within the greater macrocosm and learning to harmonize it brings one to a greater stillness – the stillness that facilitates and provides practitioners with the suitable circumstances in which to deepen their experience of Dao and return to the origin – a prime goal in Daoist practice. As the Dao De Jing states 知自者明 “Understanding the self is true enlightenment”. It is through deeper understanding of the self that we greater understand all. Understanding one’s true nature opens one to understand the objective true nature of the cosmos and deepens one's understanding and experience of Dao.